Modeling of a Direct Solar Receiver Reactor for Decomposition of Sulfuric Acid in Thermochemical Hydrogen Production Cycles

Zhiwen Ma, Claudio Corgnale, Sirivatch Shimpalee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus Citations


Hydrogen production thermochemical cycles, based on the recirculation of sulfur-based compounds, are among the best suited processes to produce hydrogen using concentrated solar power. The sulfuric acid decomposition section is common to each sulfur-based cycle and represents one of the fundamental steps. A novel direct solar receiver-reactor concept is conceived, conceptually designed and simulated. A detailed transport phenomena model, including mass, energy and momentum balance expressions as well as suitable decomposition kinetics, is described adopting a finite volume approach. A single unit reactor is simulated with an inlet flow rate of 0.28 kg/s (corresponding to a production of approximately 11 kgH2/h in a Hybrid Sulfur process) and a direct solar irradiation at a constant power of 143 kW/m2. Results, obtained for the high temperature catalytic decomposition of SO3 into SO2 and O2, demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed concept, operating at pressures of 14 bar. A maximum temperature of 879 °C is achieved in the reactor body, with a corresponding average SO2 mass fraction of 27.8%. The overall pressure drop value is 1.7 bar. The reactor allows the SO3 decomposition into SO2 and O2 to be realized effectively, requiring an external high temperature solar power input of 123.6 kJ/molSO2 (i.e. 123.6 kJ/molH2).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27237-27247
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number50
StatePublished - 18 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-75039


  • CFD simulation
  • Solar hydrogen production
  • Solar receiver-reactor
  • Sulfur-based plants
  • Thermochemical cycles


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